Last night after work, I went to see the movie Avatar in 3D and, in an effort to save plastic, brought with me the 3D glasses I’d received at another movie. Yes, I thought ahead. I had the idea yesterday morning that I might want to go see that movie and dug through a drawer full of crap to find that pair of glasses. I didn’t want to use new plastic glasses if I had my own.
That should be the end of the story. But it gets kind of funny. I sat down in the theater, put on my 3D glasses over my eyeglasses (which always kind of sucks, and which is why I generally avoid 3D movies in the first place) and waited for stuff to star popping out of the screen. And waited. And waited. I thought, Wow. This must be some new really subtle type of 3D. I took the glasses off. I put the glasses back on. The picture kind of looked better with the glasses on. And if I tilted my head a certain way and wished hard enough, the image looked a little 3 dimensional.
And then I thought maybe my glasses from home were the wrong kind for this type of 3D. So I went out into the hall to ask a theater employee, and that’s when I noticed another theater showing Avatar in 3D. I sneaked inside and had a look. Oh yeah, stuff was jumping off the screen. Apparently I had bought a ticket for a non-3D version, which I didn’t realize existed. Coming back into my theater, I finally noticed that I was the only one in there 3D glasses. Silly me. Like I said, I don’t like 3D anyway, so why was I worried?
So what about all those plastic glasses the theater gives out? As I was buying my ticket for the movie, I noticed this sign in the box office window:
And coming out, I noticed a box for returning the glasses.
So I wondered, do the glasses get ground up and recycled into new glasses? Recycled into different products? Or reused in some way. I asked a theater employee, who assured me that the glasses are shipped off to a facility where they are sanitized and returned to the theater for reuse. Pretty cool.
And then, to make sure I was getting correct information, I called Rick Heineman, Vice President of Corporate Communications for RealD, the company that developed and provides the 3D system and eyewear to theaters. He confirmed that the glasses are shipped to RealD’s facility and sanitized for reuse. Any glasses that are damaged are sent out for recycling, although the RealD company does not do the recycling themselves. None of the glasses are thrown away.
Rick also let me know that the company is working with manufacturers to create custom glasses, even prescription glasses, clip-ons, and sunglasses, that movie goers can purchase and bring back with them to the theater over and over again. For those who can afford it and enjoy the 3D experience, which is becoming more and more common these days, having our own glasses does seem to be the greenest alternative. Shipping glasses to a facility for sanitizing requires energy and chemicals. Having our own, as long as we get a lot of wear out of them, requires only the materials and energy that go into the initial manufacture.
What do you think? Do you go to 3D movies? Would you buy your own pair of 3D glasses?
(Possible spoiler alert)
Now, about the movie itself: Avatar was disappointing to me. I wanted to love it. It’s full of gorgeous images of a wild land in which the inhabitants are completely in touch with the connection of all beings. The planet is their mother in a literal sense. Animals and Pandorans communicate through their mutual connections to the planet. And the humans who come to Pandora to exploit its resources are sadly disconnected from the natural world, having destroyed their own planet. The colors are fantastic. The special effects are dazzling. And yet, the story felt hollow to me. Beautiful images embellishing a childishly simplistic story. I kept feeling like I was watching a Disney film meant for kids.
The story is so heavy-handed as to be laughable. The bad corporate and military humans (with the exception of a handful of anthropologists) are totally evil, referring to the Pandorans as savages and “blue monkeys” and willing to blast the planet and kill its inhabitants for profit. They are there to mine a valuable metal called “unobtanium.” (Get it?) The Pandorans, on the other hand, are the epitome of good. Oh yeah, a few of them might feel a little bit of jealousy here and there, but mainly they are peaceful nature people in tune with the “circle of life” to quote The Lion King.
And of course, there’s the one human white guy who learns their ways and saves them all in the end. Because, you know, they are so innocent and sweet, certainly not smart enough to save themselves. It was Dances with Wolves crossed with Titanic, two other movies I disliked (I even walked out of Dances with Wolves, but that was partly because Kevin Costner gives me the creeps and because of the two ladies sitting behind us who wouldn’t stop narrating the entire thing.) even though they were critically acclaimed and won Best Picture Academy Awards.
I love the comment from Segador on Annalee Newitz’s review of the film:
I just left the 3-D, IMAX movie. Man, was it amazingly beautiful, but it’s gotta be the first one-dimensional 3D movie I’ve ever seen.
I want to see subtlety. I want to see how humans really are. Certainly flawed. Certainly disconnected from the planet on which we live. Certainly willing to kill in order to defend our privileged way of life. And certainly willing to make enemies of those we perceive as different. But are we this way because we’re evil? Because we have no compassion? Or are we more complex than that? Taking care of each other. Willing to give our resources to help the inhabitants of countries devastated by earthquakes and and tsunamis. And also afraid. Afraid of differences. Afraid of losing our egos… our identities. We are how we’ve evolved to be. But we can learn another way. I have to believe that.
I want to know the motivation behind Giovanni Ribisi’s character Selfridge (OMG, how obvious is that name?). Why is he so angry? What has he experienced to allow him to be so callous? I want to see a little humanity. Some self-doubt, even if he can’t show it to the other characters in the film. I want the director to show some compassion towards all his characters, whether we are meant to root for them or not. And I want to see some deeper examination of the “good guys.” As Steve Arlo says in one of Michael’s favorite movies Zero Effect:
There aren’t evil guys and innocent guys. It’s just… It’s just… It’s just a bunch of guys.
I fear that we will never “save” our beloved planet earth if we continue to divide people into categories. Especially categories like “good” and “bad.”
Fake Plastic Fish reader Clif wrote a thoughtful commentary about Avatar a while back on the Fake Plastic Fish Community Discussion Board. And he asks whether a movie like Avatar is a green film or not. Please have a look and weigh in with your thoughts.